Reviews

Sightseers

4

We’re all going on a slaughter holiday...

From Carry On Camping to Shirley Valentine, the great British getaway has long been a Brit-pic staple. at first glance Ben Wheatley’s third feature slots neatly, albeit gorily, into that lineage.

The urge to escape is there in Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris’ (Steve Oram) caravanning trip, of course.

It’s there in Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’ (“I’ve got to get away...”) and a shot of a police box (trips to anywhere in time and space available, presumably), too. And it’s even there in the kills, sort of, multiple murders being the primary way that Chris and Tina shatter social constraints.

Its greatest escape, however, is Wheatley’s getaway from British cinema’s norms.

Critics attached multiple movie references to Sightseers: 'Natural Born-Nuts In May’ proved popular, just as Down Terrace was described as Mike Leigh’s The Sopranos and Kill List as Leigh’s The Wicker Man.

Yet its black blend of sick wit, sex comedy, queasy kills, domestic macabre, a very British vein of bathos and, er, doggy rimming, is Wheatley’s own.

In tone and content, Wheatley and Oram/Lowe (who co-wrote) never plump for predictable options.

We think Chris kills through class rage, for example, but it turns out anyone is fair game, recalling the “hell is other people” theme of Wheatley’s other films.

When the violation of Chris’n’ Tina’s peace (“Knock knock!”) echoes Jay’s run-in with the Christians in Kill List, Wheatley’s knack for flaunting the resentment behind British reserve remains keen and combustible.

Along the way, a delight in comic incongruity keeps us on our toes. “He’s ruined the tram museum for me,” sulks Chris after squishing a litter lout. at the Pencil Museum, Tina has a moving letter-writing moment, but it’s undercut by the sight of her ludicrous pencil; at dinner, she tells Chris she’s knicker-less but curdles the kink by keeping her tights on.

The cast hit the right tragicomic balance in Wheatley’s hands: two jovial chat-tracks and a generous Making Of detail how rehearsals sharpened the “broader” thrust of Lowe and Oram’s original stage sketches.

Some critics worried that the plot betrayed its sketchy roots, resulting in a slippery road to nowhere and a divisive finale.

But Kill List’s climax proved Wheatley doesn’t fear audience-splitting endings. Besides, Sightseers’ send-off takes its core themes – “hell is other people”, “getting away from it all” - to a logical conclusion.

Three killer films in, it looks like Wheatley is going places.

Film Details

Most Popular